Published by Mantle
Publication date – 8 July 2021
Source – review copy
Annie is single, unemployed and just a bit stuck when her beloved father dies unexpectedly. Furious at his partner’s plans to scatter his ashes somewhere of no emotional significance, Annie seizes the urn and, on a whim, decides to take it on a tour of the thirty-one sea areas that make up the shipping forecast, which her father loved listening to, despite living in landlocked St Albans. Travelling around the coastline of Britain searching for the perfect place to say goodbye, she starts to wonder if it might be time to rethink some of the relationships in her life – but is it too late for second chances?
Annie Stanley is a little bit lost. She’s quit her job and spends her days lolling about on the sofa. She’s split with her boyfriend Rob and really doesn’t like her dad’s new partner, Bev, who she feels is trying to step into her mum’s shoes. She’s been off track since her mum died a few years earlier and hasn’t really recovered. When her beloved dad dies and Bev plans to scatter his ashes in Austria, Annie does the only thing she can think of. She steals her dad and takes him off to visit some of the shipping forecast areas, a passion of her dad’s throughout his life. As she looks for the best place to release her dad into the wind, she finds more about herself in the process.
From the moment I picked up this book I got a sense of warmth emanating from the pages. There is something comforting and welcoming about Annie and her world, even though she is perhaps not the best person to be around at present. She is unravelling, not really coping since her mum died some years previously. She has quit her teaching job, a role she loves, and split with her boyfriend, the man she loves, because she feels untethered and unable to find her way back to shore. She is lazy, has lost sight of what she wants from life and is happy or rather finds it easier to drift aimlessly than think. Her younger sister Katie has taken it upon herself to be in charge but she too becomes unravelled after an unexpected occurrence. Annie is impulsive yet stubborn. At this moment in time she is self-centred but also considerate of others, more so as she comes to realise the bubble she has surrounded herself needs to pop.
There are a whole host of wonderful characters that fill the pages of this book. From Bev, the bereaved partner of Annie’s dad to the people Annie stops and chats to on her journey, each one have a small but not insignificant impact on Annie’s life and her return to herself.
Rob is a delight. A kind, considerate friend, he obviously still dotes on Annie, coming round to fix her dishwasher, bringing her food when he knows she won’t have any and making as little fuss as possible.
The story moves between the present and Annie’s journey around the UK coast to moments in Annie’s past that have shaped her life in previously unacknowledged ways.
There is humour littered throughout the book, which elevates it from being potentially maudlin. It is sentimental but not cloyingly so. It is a travelogue but the journey is just as much as personal one for Annie as it is a lesson on the shipping forecast regions.
Annie Stanley all at Sea is a lovely, funny, warm-hearted book about loss, grief and finding yourself. It was a joy to read. I look forward to reading more from Sue Teddern in the future.
About the Author
Sue Teddern has been a window dresser, a secretary, a feature writer and a university lecturer. She has over twenty years’ scriptwriting experience from episodes of Birds of a Feather for TV and Cooking in a Bedsitter for radio. Annie Stanley, All At Sea is her first novel. She is married and lives in Hove.
You can buy the book here (this is an affiliate link and I may earn 1 or 2 pence if you buy through here) https://uk.bookshop.org/books/annie-stanley-all-at-sea-9781529025033/9781529025033?aid=8112